The global enterprise market's determination to leverage big data has been synonymous with adopting cloud infrastructure. Today, over 70% of enterprises are using at least one application in the cloud1. Nonetheless, as with any other IT infrastructure or solution, there is always a possibility, however small, of glitches or downtime, and thus putting all your eggs into one basket can be risky. Earlier this year, an outage at one of Amazon's cloud servers seriously disrupted a massive number of website operations, provoking its IT professionals to re-think the importance of a multi-cloud strategy for proper cloud adoption.
A multi-cloud is a cloud environment that uses multiple cloud computing infrastructure or solutions at the same time. Regardless of the type of cloud being used—public, private or hybrid – multi-cloud can still apply. For instance, connecting to several public clouds offered by different cloud service providers can be a multi-cloud practice. This however, is nothing new, as multi-cloud solutions have been on offer since the early days of cloud. That said, the recent incident with Amazon which resulted in many websites using its service to go down, revealed that many companies have overlooked the multi-cloud as a viable business solution.
Operating multiple cloud platforms may incur a significant cost at the onset, but it can enable a business of any scale to save more in the long run. It allows the company to choose and adopt the best price and features from different platforms, ultimately building a specific solution tailored to their business. Some platforms can even be activated and charge users only when the service is needed and used.
Another key benefit of multi-cloud is risk mitigation. Whether a business operates fully or partially on a cloud server, any outage can rack up losses in the millions. Adopting multiple cloud platforms can avoid dependency on individual cloud solutions. These different platforms can also serve as a back-up plan when necessary and help the company recover from disastrous incidents.
Moreover, the distribution of applications and workloads across different cloud servers, which are typically located separately, will grant a business access to wider geographical coverage, enable lower latency, and improve performance. The spread of workflow will allow the company to enjoy easier, effective access control as well, where a third party or user can be granted with access to one server but not the other. In case of vicious attacks, when an application is compromised, the influence will be less likely to affect the others, largely increasing the level of security and decreasing disruption to the business.
Deploying and managing a cloud infrastructure for a company is challenging enough. Using multiple cloud servers potentially means dealing with different interfaces, algorithms, terminology or technology, which may increase the complexity of deployment and management. Moreover, splitting workloads or applications between multiple cloud solutions could further complicate the company's cloud infrastructure, and thus, require a higher level of expertise from the IT department to determine what and how to move to the cloud, as well as to manage it.
Currently, a lack of suitable talent or IT resources to implement and manage a multi-cloud strategy has businesses hesitant to adopt it. Alternatively, companies have the option of working with a vendor who can provide such professional advice and technical support. And yet, companies still face the challenge determining the right vendor in a relatively noisy and immature market, making the multi-cloud a significant investment that is challenging to implement.
Despite these challenges, the future looks bright for the multi-cloud. A study commissioned by XO Communications found that 86% of enterprises predicted they would require a multi-cloud strategy to support their business goals by the end of this year2. Recent incidents are making more and more businesses wise to the need for multi-cloud adoption, which is already making multi-cloud management one of the fastest-growing sectors in the industry. Although managing multiple cloud platforms and workloads will remain a challenge, the long term benefits currently outweigh the risks, making it an investment worth exploring.
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